How to Get Started with FreeBSD?


FreeBSD is a secure, high performance operating system that is suitable for a variety of server roles. In this guide, we will cover some basic information about how to get started with a FreeBSD server.

This guide is intended to provide a general setup for FreeBSD servers, but please be aware that different versions of FreeBSD may have different functionalities. Depending on which version of FreeBSD your server is running, the instructions provided here may not work as described.

Logging in with SSH

The first step you need to take to begin configuring your FreeBSD server is to log in.

On BestBuyRDP, you must provide a public SSH key when creating a FreeBSD server. This key is added to the server instance, allowing you to securely log in from your local machine using the associated private key. To learn more about how to use SSH keys with FreeBSD on BestBuyRDP, follow this guide.

To log in to your server, you will need to know your server’s public IP address. For BestBuyRDP Droplets, you can find this information in the control panel. The main user account available on FreeBSD servers created through BestBuyRDP is called freebsd. This user account is configured with sudo privileges, allowing you to complete administrative tasks.

To log in to your FreeBSD server, use the ssh command. You will need to specify the freebsd user account along with your server’s public IP address:

·         ssh freebsd@your_server_ip


You should be automatically authenticated and logged in. You will be dropped into a command line interface.

Changing the Default Shell to tcsh (Optional)

If you logged into a BestBuyRDP Droplet running FreeBSD 11, you will be presented with a very minimal command prompt that looks like this:



If you’re new to working with FreeBSD, this prompt may look somewhat unfamiliar to you. Let’s get some clarity on what kind of environment we’re working in. Run the following command to see what the default shell for your freebsd user is:

·         echo $SHELL




In this output, you can see that the default shell for the freebsd user is sh (also known as the Bourne shell). On Linux systems, sh is often an alias for bash, a free software replacement for the Bourne shell that includes a few extra features. In FreeBSD, however, it’s actually the classic sh shell program, rather than an alias.

The default command line shell for FreeBSD is tcsh, but BestBuyRDP Droplets running FreeBSD use sh by default. If you’d like to set tcsh as your freebsd user’s default shell, run the following command:

·         sudo chsh -s /bin/tcsh freebsd


The next time you log in to your server, you will see the tcsh prompt instead of the sh prompt. You can invoke the tcsh shell for the current session by running:

·         tcsh


Your prompt should immediately change to the following:



If you ever want to return to the Bourne shell you can do so with the sh command.

Although tcsh is typically the default shell for FreeBSD systems, it has a few default settings that users tend to tweak on their own, such as the default pager and editor, as well as the behaviors of certain keys. To illustrate how to change some of these defaults, we will modify the shell’s configuration file.

An example configuration file is already included in the filesystem. Copy it into your home directory so that you can modify it as you wish:

·         cp /usr/share/skel/dot.cshrc ~/.cshrc


After the file has been copied into your home directory, you can edit it. The vi editor is included on the system by default, but if you want a simpler editor, you can try the ee editor instead:

·         ee ~/.cshrc


As you go through this file, you can decide what entries you may want to modify. In particular, you may want to change the setenv entries to have specific defaults that you may be more familiar with.


. . .


setenv  EDITOR  vi

setenv  PAGER   more


. . .

If you are not familiar with the vi editor and would like a more basic editing environment, you could change the EDITOR environment variable to something like ee. Most users will want to change the PAGER to less instead of more. This will allow you to scroll up and down in man pages without exiting the pager:


. . .

setenv  EDITOR  ee

setenv  PAGER   less

. . .

Another thing that you will likely want to add to this configuration file is a block of code that will correctly map some of your keyboard keys inside the tcsh session. At the bottom of the file, add the following code. Without these lines, DELETE and other keys will not work correctly:


. . .

if ($term == "xterm" || $term == "vt100" \

            || $term == "vt102" || $term !~ "con*") then

          # bind keypad keys for console, vt100, vt102, xterm

          bindkey "\e[1~" beginning-of-line  # Home

          bindkey "\e[7~" beginning-of-line  # Home rxvt

          bindkey "\e[2~" overwrite-mode     # Ins

          bindkey "\e[3~" delete-char        # Delete

          bindkey "\e[4~" end-of-line        # End

          bindkey "\e[8~" end-of-line        # End rxvt


When you are finished, save and close the file by pressing CTRL+C, typing exit, and then pressing ENTER. If you instead edited the file with vi, save and close the file by pressing ESC, typing :wq, and then pressing ENTER.

To make your current session reflect these changes immediately, source the configuration file:

·         source ~/.cshrc


It might not be immediately apparent, but the HomeInsertDelete, and End keys will work as expected now.

One thing to note at this point is that if you are using the tcsh or csh shells, you will need to execute the rehash command whenever any changes are made that may affect the executable path. Common scenarios where this may happen occur when you are installing or uninstalling applications.

After installing programs, you may need to type this in order for the shell to find the new application files:

·         rehash


With that, the tcsh shell is not only set as your freebsd user’s default, but it is also much more usable.

Setting bash as the Default Shell (Optional)

If you are more familiar with the bash shell and would prefer to use that as your default shell, you can make that adjustment in a few short steps.

Note: bash is not supported on FreeBSD 11.1, and the instructions in this section will not work for that particular version.

First, you need to install the bash shell by typing:

·         sudo pkg install bash


You will be prompted to confirm that you want to download the package. Do so by pressing y and then ENTER.

After the installation is complete, you can start bash by running:

·         bash


This will update your shell prompt to look like this:



To change freebsd’s default shell to bash, you can type:

·         sudo chsh -s /usr/local/bin/bash freebsd


The next time you log in, the bash shell will be started automatically instead of the current default.

If you wish to change the default pager or editor in the bash shell, you can do so in a file called ~/.bash_profile. This will not exist by default, so you will need to create it:

·         ee ~/.bash_profile

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